The Rundown: Critical Year Ahead for Márquez, Potential Schwarber Return, Big Year Ahead for Schwindel, Scherzer Slams League Owners

I think we can all agree that 2021 was unkind to Brailyn Márquez. It’s bad enough he’s now a post-hype prospect that is getting less love than before the 2019 and ’20 seasons, but, as we’ve been discussing over at the Cubs Insider Discord Community, it’s worth questioning if the young man and his 102 mph fastball can still be a rotation mainstay.

When Márquez is on, he brings easy gas and can hold his velocity deep into his starts thanks to an incredibly calm delivery. When he follows it up with his mid-80s changeup and a wicked slider, Márquez can be absolutely deadly. That screams ace upside, right?

The problem is that lack of consistency and injury issues have tarnished his star just a bit. His lone major league appearance at the end of 2020 scratched at that luster, too. Pitching in relief against the White Sox, Márquez was torched for five runs on two hits and three walks in 0.2 innings. To be fair, he got the assignment having never pitched above High-A previously.

Questions abound when it comes to his future. The soon-to-be 23-year-old lefty will enter 2022 having missed all of last season due to COVID-19 and a shoulder problem that did not require surgery. Guys who can crank it up from a three-quarters arm slot the way Márquez can are sometimes susceptible to shoulder injuries. The potential dominance is intriguing, but the injury history suggests his future lies in the back end of Chicago’s bullpen. That said, the Cubs may continue to slow-pace the young pitcher with the hopes he will eventually become the ace he is/was projected to be.

Jed Hoyer is right there in his assessment, too.

“[Márquez] is a pitching weapon, so to speak,” the president of baseball operations said at the start of the offseason. “It’s valid to ask how many innings he’s going to [pitch] next year. We’re going to have to be careful coming off a COVID season, coming off a season he didn’t pitch. I think those are constantly [questions] that we’re having to ask and address. We’re going to have inning limits on him. We have to figure out when [to do] that – not dissimilar to the way we used Adbert Alzolay [in 2020], that we had to be aware of his health and his innings.”

Márquez remains at the top of Chicago’s prospect list and this will be a critical year in his development. The fastball is still worth dreaming on, but it will be his offspeed stuff that ultimately determines his fate. Is Chicago’s top gun a future ace or closer-in-making? The way the Cubs will deploy him this season probably won’t provide an immediate answer. With a bevy of good-to-great starters on the rise in DJ Herz, Jordan Wicks, and Caleb Kilian, Márquez may find more success at the back end of the bullpen. It’s also not out of the question that he and/or Alzolay could be used as trade bait to acquire someone from a team like the A’s or Rays once baseball resumes.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Let’s face it, Leslie Nielsen should have been a real home plate umpire.

Baseball News & Notes

The recent firing of Rosenthal by the MLB Network isn’t sitting well with NBA TV analyst David Aldridge.

Rosenthal’s firing proves the league’s flagship network is just a tool for league propaganda.

The Mets are listed among the favorites to win the 2022 World Series. In fact, they’re listed as second, right behind the Dodgers. I’ll take the field.

When used properly, the eephus pitch can be weaponized to turn sluggers into ordinary hitters.

Negotiations & Love Songs

We are now entering Week 5 of radio silence since the work stoppage began.

Baseball’s latest work stoppage won’t prevent minor league teams from holding minicamps, spring training, or extended spring training for players that are not on the 40-man rosters.

Sports Illustrated has a nice piece on baseball’s first labor war, back in the late 1880s.

Max Scherzer slammed league owners and front offices for the perceived lack of desire to win baseball games.

Today’s Baseball Jones

Andre Dawson was often the most congenial player in all of baseball, a true professional if you will. Cowboy Joe West can bring out the worst in even the nicest players, however.

Extra Innings

Gary Carter was rarely upstaged, but the San Diego Chicken got the best of the Expos backstop during the 1979 All-Star Game.

They Said It

  • “[Scwhindel] was a lot of fun to watch. Watching the way he played, the energy he had, his at-bats, the ability to hit for power without striking out much was really special. I couldn’t be [happier] for him in his situation to go out and prove it the way he did.” – Hoyer
  • “Manfred and the owners keep sinking lower. Unless making dead-on-arrival proposals, tone-deaf public remarks and other assorted blunders are your ideas of negotiating savvy.” – Rosenthal

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Roll on Slow by Glen Hansard – We writers are just grinding it out during this lockout. Thanks for sticking around. This is a great song, by the way.

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